Obamacare enrollment likely to fall short of White House goal

4.2M have signed up for exchange plans

 

About 940,000 U.S. residents enrolled in health plans through the Affordable Care Act's insurance exchanges in February, down from 1.2 million in January and 1.8 million in December, according to HHS data released Tuesday.

With fewer than three weeks left in the ACA's initial open enrollment period, total exchange enrollment is at 4.2 million, Obama administration officials said.

According to the administration, 27% of those who enrolled in coverage last month were between ages 18 and 34. Overall, one-quarter of total enrollees are between those ages, a data point that remains unchanged with February's enrollment.

Nearly 2.6 million of those who have enrolled in coverage so far did so through the federal exchange website, while 1.6 million enrolled through state-run exchange sites. According to the data, enrollees in California and New York accounted for almost two-thirds of all those who enrolled through state-run exchanges, with 869,000 and 244,600 signups, respectively.

CBO: The ACA will sign up fewer Americans in 2014, shrink full-time workforce

In addition, the data showed that around 83% of those who enrolled in coverage qualified for federal subsidies to help cover the cost of premiums. The data also noted that more than 60% of those who enrolled selected silver plans, which cover about 70% of medical costs, while 18% of enrollees selected bronze plans, which cover around 60% of medical costs.

The data did not include the number of people who have paid their first month's premiums. Insurers estimate that nearly one in five individuals who signed up for health plans did not pay their January premiums. In addition, they note that some of those who paid for and received coverage in January did not pay their February premiums, putting their coverage at risk.

That data also did not specify how many people who enrolled in coverage were previously uninsured.

Slowdown might cause lower-than-hoped total enrollment

Given the slowdown in enrollment pace, it seems likely that the Obama administration will fall short of its enrollment goals for the initial open enrollment period, the reports.

Sebelius: We want 7 million in the exchanges by March

Administration officials attributed the lower enrollment to February being a shorter month, therefore allowing less time for people to enroll in health plans. They predicted that enrollment would pick back up toward the end of the open enrollment period.

HHS spokesperson Julie Bataille said, "We do believe millions more Americans will come in and enroll in coverage before the March 31 deadline," adding, "We've seen that many consumers simply choose to make this kind of decision very close to the deadline."

According to the Times, a memo circulated among federal health officials in September 2013 set targets of having 5.6 million people enrolled by the end of February and seven million people enrolled by the end of March. The memo also set a total enrollment goal for February of 1.3 million people.

According to the Associated Press, another 1.8 million people would have to enroll to hit the administration's original targets, averaging 60,000 people per day. That figure is significantly higher than the daily averages for January and February, which ranged from 33,000 to 34,000 enrollees.

Reaction

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said, "As more Americans learn just how affordable marketplace insurance can be, more are signing up to get covered." She added that experience with other health care programs has demonstrated that "young adults tend to sign up later in the process."

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called the enrollment numbers "dismal," saying that President Obama should "work with Congress to get rid of" the law's individual mandate (Pear, New York Times, 3/11; Demko, Modern Healthcare, 3/11 [subscription required]; Somashekhar/Goldstein, Washington Post, 3/11; Alonso-Zaldivar, AP/Yahoo! News, 3/11).


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